A Quick Look At Begonia Care
Begonia care need not be terribly complicated. There are a few things that one needs to know of course, but by sticking to a few simple rules, one can be rewarded by some extremely attractive flowers, foliage, or both. There are a large number of species of this plant, over 1,000, and there are also several distinct types. Much of what is involved in basic begonia care applies to nearly all of the species and types, although there are a few differences worth noting.
Differences In Begonia Care Not Dramatic - Differences in begonia care as far as the different types is concerned, has largely to do with how they are planted. As far as watering, fertilizing, and soil types are concerned, the differences are slight. It boils down to whether one has a fibrous root, a tuber, or a rhizome, and how each of these should be placed in the soil. The basic rule is not to plant them too deeply, especially the tubers, to avoid crown rot. Nearly all species have a very shallow root system, so keeping the soil moist is imperative and the use of mulch is a good idea.
Fertilizing - As far as fertilizing begonias is concerned, the general rule is to go lightly. Some species will do fine without any fertilizer at all, though most like a light dressing from time to time. If planted indoors in flats or pots for later transplanting, it is best not to apply any fertilizer until the begonias are transplanted. Most like a well mixed, fairly light potting soil, consisting of soil, sand, and peat moss or leaf mold. When planting, mixing in a little cow manure can pay dividends. Just use old manure and not the fresh stuff.
Begonia Types - Don't let the various types of begonia confuse you. Fibrous or wax begonias, are often smaller plants with smaller blooms that are used as bedding plants and planted as annuals. They are propagated by stem cuttings in which the stem is simple stuck in wet sand and will eventually take root.
Tuberous begonias are, as the name implies, planted as tubers and are perennials, in that the tubers are removed from the ground and over wintered in a place they will not freeze or be touched by frost. It is usually the tuberous begonias which offer the largest and most colorful blossoms and are especially well suited for large pots and containers.
Rhizomatous begonias are perhaps not quite so well known, but feature a creeping root stalk rather than a single stalk. Foliage and flowers sprout from this creeping root stalk.
Another group is the Rex begonia. This group consists of hybrids developed from the other groups, especially the tuberous begonias. Rex begonias are grown primarily for their foliage rather than for the blossoms, and unlike the other begonia types, do best in moist, warm air.
Learn By Doing - Since there are so many varieties, learning proper begonia care is often a matter of learning from experience. If you follow the basic rules of planting, watering, and feeding (not too much), you'll probably have good results. Most begonias for example like plenty of light, but at the same time should not be exposed to the mid day sun in warmer climates. An ideal place is often on the east side of a house where they'll get ample morning sun but be out of the hot sun in the afternoon, though still not in deep shade. If begonias of any type are planted in too much shade, they will tend to get leggy.
Keep The Feet Dry - Probably the worst enemy of the begonia is to have its roots standing in water. Under this condition the plant will usually quickly deteriorate and probably cannot be saved. Also any begonia suffering from root rot, mildew, or virus should be disposed of before the disease spreads to neighboring begonia plants. Watch for eel worms, aphids, and weevils, though these pests are more apt to bother bedding plants than those in pots or containers. All in all though, begonia care is not a complicated process.